I love Jane Thynne’s novels, especially the Clara Vine series set in the Second World War, as this novel is. So it was with a great deal of anticipation that I began to read.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed. THE WORDS I NEVER WROTE is a braided narrative with part set in the present day, and part set in the past. Although I loved the concept of modern-day Juno Lambert discovering a 1931 Underwood typewriter that once belonged to celebrated journalist Cordelia Capel, I agree with other readers that this part of the story was not strong and should have been cut.
The real meat of the story (as so often in these braided narratives) is what happened in the past. That part of the novel begins in 1936, when Cordelia Capel’s sister Irene marries a German businessman and goes to live in Berlin. As most everyone knows, marrying a German in the 1930s was NOT a good move, and so tension naturally arises as to what is going to happen to Irene and her new German family when the Second World War engulfs Europe in the Fall of 1939.
But I really think that Jane Thynne should NOT have relied on that historical tension alone. What this book needed, IMHO, was its OWN tension, a narrative arc that gives a novel a spine until the tension is so great, you cannot put the novel down.
Instead what we have is a braided narrative going with the sisters (another reason why we didn’t need the present day to intrude), with Cordelia reporting on the war from Paris, and Irene going to mind-numbingly boring functions in Berlin, with a husband who increasingly turns into a stereotype of a Nazi monster. Meanwhile, the Jews are being systematically hounded, and although those scenes were powerfully narrated, still the novel lacked direction. Three stars.